Our final night in the A Block is one of those weird G1 shows with five singles matches, only one of which means anything. This has all come down to the main event of Ibushi vs Okada, and it’s a pretty simple scenario too. If Ibushi wins, he goes through while any other result sends Okada to the final.
My must-see spoiler-free recommendations are Zack Sabre Jr vs KENTA, Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Will Ospreay and Kota Ibushi vs Kazuchika Okada.
Lance Archer (3-6) defeated EVIL (4-5)
Lance Archer keeps finding new mental shit to do. In this one, he hit a Moonsault off the apron, except it wasn’t so much a Moonsault as a back somersault onto EVIL and a group of Young Lions. It wasn’t the prettiest move you’ll ever see, but that didn’t stop it being impressive. You’ve got to give him credit for using these moves at the exact right moment. He hasn’t spammed them throughout the tournament but thrown one or two into each match, keeping the surprise element intact.
Outside of Archer’s occasional junior tendencies, this was a good old-fashioned hoss battle. These two men hit hard, so it was no surprise to see them laying into each other, and it was that which made it entertaining, not the high-flying. They have the presence of big men, bullying their opponents and tossing them around the ring. Someone like EVIL isn’t actually that tall, but the way he wrestles more than makes up for his lack of inches.
The finish saw Archer lock on a flash EBD Claw and pin EVIL’s shoulders to the floor. If I’m honest, I would have liked EVIL to end with a positive record, but Archer’s performances probably earned him another win, and it’s not that big a deal. These two have had impressive runs, and this was a fun match to finish on.
Verdict: Three And Three Quarter Stars
Bad Luck Fale (4-5) defeated SANADA (4-5)
Right, there are two sides to this match. On the one hand, I hated it. It was riddled with Fale’s bullshit, and I’m done with that shite. On the other, Budokan loved SANADA’s comeback. He’s so over at this point that having the big man and his trolls cheat to work him over had these fans ravenous. They wanted to see him overcome the odds and almost saved this match in their attempts to cheer him on to overcome Fale and his trolls (even if they were left heart broken).
The problem is that Fale sucks. He’s boring, and while SANADA worked hard, we’ve seen that there is only so much you can do. He stopped this being a total shit show and ended an impressive G1 with a good performance, but that’s not the same as a good match. Let’s hope this is the last time we see Fale in a G1 and that this new obsession with him picking up wins via roll-ups is short lived.
Verdict: Two And A Quarter Stars
Zack Sabre Jr (4-5) defeated KENTA (4-5)
Zack Sabre Jr is a cocky wee prick, and the fact he’s a cocky wee prick is often the death of him. There was no need for him to go out and trade strikes with KENTA. Yet, at the start of this match, that was exactly what he did. He knows he’s the best technical wrestler on the planet, but he wants everyone to see that he’s the best at the other stuff too.
I also hadn’t thought about it before, but ZSJ might be the perfect opponent for 2019 KENTA. He works a slower match style, switching between submissions and strikes. It allows KENTA to stiff it out but also to keep the pace down only utilising his explosiveness at the right moments. We can all see he’s incapable of wrestling at speed for too long, so opponents that require him to slow down are perfect.
And on top of all that, these two beat the shit out of each other. Every blow was stiff, every slap a haymaker. If you’ve been reading my G1 reviews, you’ve probably figured out that I love that shit, so this was no different. There were strikes in this match that I could feel half a world away and it was all linked in with the story of Zack working over KENTA’s arm, and trying to take him out that way, but KENTA being too stubborn a bugger to let it stop him raining down blows.
In the end, though, ZSJ just had too much. KENTA went for Go To Sleep only for Zack to wriggle out, clambering across KENTA’s body to that injured arm and then booting him in the head while he twisted on it. KENTA had no choice, it was tap or break, and he tapped, but fucking hell, what a match!
Verdict: Four And A Half Stars
Will Ospreay (4-5) defeated Hiroshi Tanahashi (4-5)
Will Ospreay vs Hiroshi Tanahashi is a fascinating pairing. Ospreay is a man who wrestles at full speed, flying around the ring and often getting his opponents to do the same. However, Tana can’t do that, at least not in 2019, and as he’s Hiroshi Tanahashi, this match was always going to have to slow down and smell the roses.
That’s exactly what they did too, with Tanahashi attacking Ospreay’s leg and looking to neutralise him that way (Will’s selling was okay but he still has an annoying tendency to ignore it when he takes to the air which is what prevented this being a true classic). It was fascinating to see someone curtail Will’s more extravagant instincts as Tanahashi strove to make this more story-based than action-packed. It was The Ace trying to prove he could compete with the younger star, using all those years of experience to show that he still had it.
And as they did so, it built and built brilliantly. There was a point where I wasn’t sure if this was going to click, but by the end they had me. When Tana came off the top with High Fly Flow and Will rolled through I was on the edge of my seat, when Ospreay connected with the Assassin’s Blade, I was off it. I’ve always liked Will, but I’d had doubts about his ability to work this kind of match, the kind of match that leads a company. Sure, it was Hiroshi Tanahashi he was in there with, but this is pretty good proof that he’s perfectly capable of doing exactly that.
Verdict: Four And A Half Stars
Kota Ibushi (7-2) defeated Kazuchika Okada (7-2)
Kazuchika Okada isn’t just one of the greatest wrestlers on the planet, but he fights like a man who knows it. He started this match with all the swagger in the world, controlling Ibushi and looking at home as he did so. There wasn’t anything distinctly heelish about his actions, but his talent made him easy to hate and the fans (who were split coming in), began to settle into Ibushi’s corner.
And like all Okada matches, the action built as they went along. Ibushi began to find his feet, hitting a Last Ride (which he nearly stumbled on) before following up with that vicious looking Package Tombstone. With ten minutes remaining, Okada might have dominated more minutes, but Ibushi’s offence hit harder. You could sense the change in momentum, and when Ibushi bounced up from a Shotgun Dropkick to hit a brutal Lariat, the match had turned.
And, of course, the final minutes were stunning. Ibushi found the most effective counter to the Dropkick yet by plucking Okada out the air for a Powerbomb before blocking a Spinning Rainmaker with a Jumping Knee to the face. That set him up for the Kamigoye, and while the champ kicked out of one, Ibushi didn’t hesitate. He grabbed the arms again and drilled him, one, two, three.
That was brilliant, but it was one of those brilliant matches that felt like they had more to give. Okada and Ibushi put on an outstanding performance and kept enough at home that you can almost guarantee they are doing this again. Whether that’s at the Dome, or elsewhere, we’ll have to wait till Monday to see.
Verdict: Four And A Half Stars
Wow, these final nights can sometimes be a bit disappointing as wrestlers drag their broken bodies through matches that don’t mean much. This was not that as from Sabre vs KENTA onwards this might have been the best show of the whole tour. Ibushi is in the final, but quite frankly, if that had been the last three matches on January 4th (or 5th), everyone would have gone home happy.
Top Three Matches of the G1 So Far
- Tomohiro Ishii vs Shingo Takagi (8/8/19) – Five Stars
- Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Kota Ibushi (3/8/19) – Four And Three Quarter Stars
- Shingo Takagi vs Tetsuya Naito (4/8/19) – Four And Three Quarter Stars
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